It’s 90 degrees outside in March and I’m walking two blocks away from my office to Carrollton Avenue, a major street in New Orleans. I’m in that no-mans-land territory that isn’t really Mid-City but not Hollygrove tucked back behind a dusty highway. But I’m only two blocks away from Carrollton and there is so much traffic over there and my boyfriend is picking me up, it’s not big deal.
It’s hot, everyone’s out and about, I’ve walked this way and hopped on the bus before, everything is fine.
In this sort of heat the shotgun houses all look so clean. I really love this street–you can tell working people live here but everything is still quaint, still homey and comfortable and at ease. A man is sitting on his porch to my right, he may or may not be rolling weed on a table but why should I give a shit? It’s New Orleans, after all.
He stares at me as I walk by and I nod. “Hello.”
I walk by.
I turn back around, confused. He’s still on his porch but he’s opened his front door and is halfway inside of his home. He whispers under his breath, puckers his lips and motions his head indoors. He wants me to come inside.
I feel the breath begin to catch in my chest. “What?”
I turn around and start walking faster. I’m a block away from Carrollton. There are a couple men getting out of a car to my left and all of a sudden I’m so cognizant of the fact that no women are around me. It’s all men, and I don’t know what they’re thinking but there is something about this city that brings out something inconspicuously vicious, something carnal. I’m nauseous.
I don’t look at the men, don’t smile and say hello like I normally would. I just have to get used to the fact that if you say Hello to people on the street it must mean you are a hooker, or a whore, or an object that you can blow kisses at or fuck around with to your leisure while they’re paralyzed and silent. I’m fucking scared.
I hop in my boyfriend’s car shaking and tell him what happened. He tries to make a joke out of it–not out of malice per se, but out of ignorance. It sounds funny if things like this never happen to you.
“Why does this always happen when I’m alone? Why? I’m always with you, I’m barely ever alone and it feels like every single time I am this happens… No one ever treated me like that in Chicago.”
I did everything alone in Chicago. Every single errand, every walk, every train ride, every moment was mine alone. I never felt unsafe.
I feel vulnerable no matter where I go here.